Images de page



WHEN Christianity was introduced it occasioned a very great sensation.

Whole cities were thrown into an uproar at its appearance, and it was said of its preachers that they were turning the world upside down. Christianity was not therefore quietly established, but was introduced into the minds of its first converts amidst great public commotions. The feelings of the early Christians must have partaken fully of that excited tone imparted to every community, in which the voice of our Religion was heard.

That the least heed should be given, under these circumstances, to the humble affairs of daily duty, to the common and natural obligations of life, is the last thing to have been expected. We should certainly never think to have found such a one as the Apostle Paul with his way of life and his habits of mind, paying any sort of attention to the ordinary offices of life. But we have only to look into his epistles, those writings from which we obtain the best idea of the feelings and opinions of the Christians of that period, and we shall find that never for a single instant did Christianity permit her converts to lose sight of the common relations of nature and society. Take, for instance, the two epistles to the Thessalonians. At Thessalonica, Paul had preached Christianity at the imminent hazard of his life, and was near being torn in pieces by a mob. Upon his escape from that city, so soon as he found opportunity, he wrote to the small company of disciples he had collected there. And what is the style of this incorrigible disturber of the public peace? He beseeches his brethren to continue studiously in the quiet performance of their usual duties, giving us to understand that this had been the tenor of his instructions from the first. Listen to his own words. “We beseech you that ye study to be quiet and to do your own business and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without.” Again in the second epistle. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us, for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you,

neither did we eat any man's bread for naught; but wrought with labor and travail that we might not be chargeable to any of you, not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us. For even when we were with

you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy-bodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus, that with quietness they work and eat their own bread.”

In this earnest and explicit manner, the Apostle sought to impress upon his brethren the importance of quietness, regularity and good order. Consider what

the character of St Paul was. He was a man of ardent temperament, of great sensibility, and the circumstances into which he had been all along thrown, were such as to encourage and confirm the peculiarities of his original constitution. With a warm and zealous mind, his life had been one uninterrupted scene of excitement. His feelings had been early aroused by the rise of a sect who appeared to him to throw contempt upon his most sacred convictions, upon the religion of his country and his ancestors. And when we recollect the extraordinary means employed by Heaven to bring him to be the most devoted defender of the persecuted faith of Christ, we can hardly conceive how the balance of his mind, with all its awakened sensibilities, was preserved. Follow him in his course as an apostle of Christianity. He journeyed from city to city, over land and over sea, filled with the idea of a great change to be wrought in the world. His mind must have been thronged day and night with the most exciting images. And wherever he appeared, wherever his voice was heard, an extraordinary sensation was produced. Infuriated mobs were collected. He was rescued by military force, carried before magistrates, thrown into prison, beaten, stoned, left for dead, driven from place to place, and confronted with kings. Habituated to such scenes, could his mind descend with any sort of interest to the common realities, and familiar details of daily duty? In fine, is it not worthy of remark, does it not give us a noble idea of Christianity, to find her at the stormiest periods, inculcating in a clear and calm voice the homely duties of common life, directing men to be quiet, orderly, to pursue their usual occupations peaceably? While she was aiming at a great


moral revolution, the greatest that can be imagined, and when the human mind must have boiled and foamed around her, like a vexed sea, she partook not of the general excitement, but showed her superiority to it, and did not permit the attention of men to be carried away, as it was naturally and strongly inclined to be, from the present and usual sphere of human duty. She did not allow the eternal lines which mark the natural obligations of man, to be hidden by the flood of feeling that she had called forth.

It is indeed a very singular, a most admirable trait in our holy religion, that while it proposes the greatest objects, deals in the sublimest truths, unfolds the largest views of the moral government of the world, and of the obligations and destiny of man, it takes proper and faithful cognizance of the every day matters of human life. It invests man with new and lofty relations, throws around him an unearthly light, teaches him to consider himself as a celestial intelligence, the offspring of an Infinite Being-eternity his duration, the universe his home. At the same time it does not allow him to forget—it reminds him in a tone clear and forcible, that he is a member of the human family, bound by the common obligations, engaged in the daily labors, perhaps in the lowest manual occupations of human life. The splendors of its revelations, concentrated as they were, were not allowed to obscure, they were made to illuminate the humble sphere of present duty. Christianity is a system at once the most comprehensive and the most simple. While it points to a boundless future, the contemplation of which excites and ravishes the soul, it gives to the present its due importance, and does not permit us to disregard the claims that are near, however familiar they may be. This, I conceive to be the beauty, the spirit, the genius of our religion. While it animates us at the prospect of what we are to become hereafter, it adapts itself perfectly to man as he is here.

We perceive this beautiful characteristic of Christianity, particularly as it was exhib'ted in the first days of our religion, tempering the spirit of the apostles, which everything was conspiring to excite, making it a duty among the new converts, that they should give regular attention to business, live quietly, and perform faithfully the duties of their several vocations. It was not simply the novelty of their situation and their new views and feelings, that were calculated to create a disgust at their old occupations, to render them indisposed to the dull course of their ordinary labors. They might very naturally have conceived, that when the harvest was so great, and the laborers were so few, it was their duty to relinquish their customary pursuits, and to devote themselves to the great work of reformation which had commenced in the world. Plausible as this course must have appeared, when I consider that they did not adopt it; or if they were so inclined, that the apostle, by express injunction,* commanded them to remain, each in the station, no matter how humble and laborious, in which the new religion found him, Christianity receives my profoundest admiration, and I feel that a system so exalting, so calculated, I may say, to excite emotions amounting to rapture, and at the same time so calm, sober and judicious, could not have had a human origin--could not certainly have been introduced by any human means, at that period at

* See particularly 1 Cor. vii. 10—22 inclusive.

« PrécédentContinuer »